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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Ansett administrator quits
Grounded Ansett planes
Ansett planes could be flying again within days
The administrators of failed Australian airline Ansett have resigned after trade unions raised concerns over conflicts of interest.

Consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was handling the firm's administration, said there were concerns it might be prejudiced by previous work for Ansett, and the carrier's parent firm Air New Zealand.

We are in continued discussions today with the administrator about wet-leasing 10 A320s with crew and there are a lot of complex issues still to be resolved

Meanwhile around 3,000 Ansett staff returned to work on Monday, with the remaining 13,000 employees on standby, after Qantas and Virgin Blue said Ansett planes could be flying again in a couple of days.

Speculation that Qantas and Virgin Blue may lease Ansett planes has raised hopes that more employees would keep their jobs as talks continued with interested buyers.

Australia's second biggest airline collapsed on Friday, placing up to 60,000 direct and indirect jobs at risk, sparking airport strikes by angry workers and stranding thousands of passengers.

Arthur Andersen has now been appointed as administrator.

Hope for workers

Qantas has moved quickly to fill the void left by Ansett, which controlled 40% of the domestic market.

Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon
Dixon wants Ansett's domestic routes and planes

"We are in continued discussions today with the administrator about wet-leasing 10 A320s with crew and there are a lot of complex issues still to be resolved," a Qantas spokesman said.

Costs, maintenance and long-term leasing conditions were cited as sticking points for Virgin Blue, which wants to add to its fleet of nine planes by leasing up to 10 Ansett planes with crews.

Frustrated workers held a rally outside Melbourne Airport on Monday as unions sought to recover up to A$400m (136m; $205m) owed in wages, holiday pay, long service leave and other entitlements.

Kiwi endangered

Air NZ faces a precarious future after its share price plunged on Monday as it fights to avoid liability for Ansett's debts.

Air NZ is under pressure to meet the employee estimated A$400m of entitlements from both the New Zealand and Australian governments.

Hit by a NZ$1.3bn (362m; $544m) write-off of Ansett, Air NZ last week reported a record NZ$1.4bn loss for the year to June 30.

Qantas shares plunged by more than 13% lower on Monday as investors calculated that any benefit from Ansett's demise could be offset by a bleak outlook for global airlines.

See also:

16 Sep 01 | Business
Ansett workers offered some hope
14 Sep 01 | Business
Protests as Australia airline fails
12 Sep 01 | Business
Aussie airline rescue fails
11 Sep 01 | Business
Qantas poised for airline deal
06 Jun 01 | Business
Australia avoids recession
01 May 01 | Business
Airlines clash down under
09 Aug 01 | Business
Australian job losses on the rise
16 Aug 01 | Business
Qantas profits slump
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